FINAL ESSAY GUIDELINES

 

            Follow these guidelines in preparing your take-home essays:

 

            1.  PAPERS SHOULD BE PREPARED AS WORD DOCUMENTS (OR IN RTF FORMAT).  THE FILENAME SHOULD BEGIN WITH YOUR LAST NAME.  PAPERS SHOULD BE SUBMITTED TO THE PHIL 437 ELECTRONIC DROP BOX.  THERE IS A LINK TO THE DROP BOX ON THE PHIL 437 WEB PAGE.  Papers should be no more than 1500 words, not including footnotes.  Although papers are evaluated chiefly on their philosophical merits, grammar, spelling, and diction will also be evaluated.  You are expected to express your thoughts in clear, grammatical, English sentences.

 

            2.  NON-TECHNICAL INTRODUCTION.  Your paper should begin with a non-technical introduction to the problem you will discuss.  You can refer to other philosophers after you set up the problem. 

 

            3.  STRUCTURE OF THE PAPER.  In your paper, you will be asked to critically discuss one or more issues in Hume's Treatise.  Make sure you carefully explain Hume's position before you criticize it.  Always consider how Hume might reply to your criticisms.

 

            4.  CONCLUSION.  End your paper with a conclusion that you think is supported by the preceding arguments.

 

            5.  CITE FULLY AND ACCURATELY.  Make sure you accurately state the position of any author you discuss.  Any time you quote an author OR ATTRIBUTE A PROPOSITION to an author, the quotation or attribution must be supported by a citation to the text, with page numbers.  YOU MAY NOT CITE ME AS AN AUTHORITY ON WHAT AN AUTHOR SAYS (UNLESS I AM THE AUTHOR!).  YOU MUST CITE THE AUTHOR HIM/HERSELF.  Where the reference is to a text in the assigned readings, it is sufficient to provide page references in parentheses immediately after the quotation or attribution.  In all other cases, provide a full bibliographic reference in a footnote or endnote.  The page limit on the paper applies to the text of the paper only.  Footnotes are free.

 

            6.  TO SHOW THAT YOU UNDERSTAND AN AUTHOR'S POSITION, IT IS NOT SUFFICIENT TO SIMPLY PARROT THE AUTHOR.  Where you quote the author, make sure you explain in your own words the significance of the quoted material.  It is often helpful to use your own examples to clarify the views of the author you are discussing.

 

            7. USE CARE IN INTERPRETING AN AUTHOR, PARTICULARLY SOMEONE YOU DISAGREE WITH.  If on your interpretation of an author, the author either is inconsistent or has made an obvious error of reasoning, begin by assuming that you have misinterpreted the author.  Reread the relevant passages carefully to see if you can put together a consistent position that is not obviously erroneous. 

 

            8.  CAREFULLY DISTINGUISH VIEWS THAT YOU CLAIM AN AUTHOR HOLDS FROM VIEWS THAT YOU CLAIM THE AUTHOR SHOULD HOLD OR IS COMMITTED TO HOLDING.  Claims that an author holds a particular view must be supported with cites to the text.  But claims that an author should hold or is committed to holding a particular view must be supported with relevant arguments, in addition to cites to the text.

 

            9. USE LABELS.  In your paper, you will typically have to distinguish between a number of different theses or positions.  It is often useful to give names or labels to the various theses or positions (e.g., After explaining Hume's account of causation in terms of constant conjunction, you might refer to the account as the constant conjunction account of causation or as CC for short.  Whenever you use a label, always clearly state what the label refers to. 

 

            10.  USE EXAMPLES.  In philosophy, it is easy to get lost in a discussion of abstract ideas. You should not feel that you understand an author's view unless you can explain how it applies to relevant examples.  In your paper, you should not deal entirely in abstractions.  You should try to develop one or more examples which (perhaps with some variations) can be used to illustrate the main issues in the paper.

 

            11.  AVOID PLAGIARISM.  Whenever you turn in any assignment in this course, the understanding is that what you are turning in is your own original work, except to the extent that you explicitly credit others for their contributions. You have an obligation to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, by always attributing any argument or idea that you have borrowed, even if you have modified it, to its source.  The source may be written or oral.  For example, if an argument was suggested by a fellow student, include that information in a footnote.

 

 

 

STYLISTIC SUGGESTIONS

(including some adopted from Professor BonJour)

 

            1. Make sure that you express yourself in complete sentences.  Each sentence must contain, at a minimum, a subject and a predicate in grammatical agreement that make sense together.

 

            2.  A common mistake is sentences that run on too long.  Two or more gramatically complete sentences should be separated by a period, not a comma.  If you want to link them more closely, you can use a semi-colon, or a comma and a conjunction (e.g., "and" or "but).  Other things being equal, two short sentences are better than one longer sentence.

 

            3.  Check the meanings and spellings of all words that you are not sure of.  It is recommended that you use a computer spelling checker before printing your final draft.

 

            4.  Some people believe that really good philosophy must be very deep, and thus hard to understand.  You will not be rewarded for such writing in this course.  Your goal should be to make your papers as clear, as unambiguous, and as easy to understand as the subject matter allows.  A good way to test for awkward constructions as well as for sense is to read your paper aloud to someone else, or even just to yourself.  You may also have it read by one of the tutors in the Philosophy Writing Center.  Your paper should make sense to most reasonably intelligent people (even someone not taking this course), though, of course, they need not be persuaded by your arguments.  You are encouraged to discuss the paper topic with other students in the course, but you are responsible for making your paper your own original work, except for the sources that you explicitly acknowledge and cite in the paper itself.